Posted in Angry Asian Buddhist, Buddhist Youth, tagged American Buddhism, Asian, Asian American, BCA, Buddhist Youth, GĐPT, minority, Southern California on December 5, 2008|
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Many thanks to Dan who posted a link to Making the Invisible Visible in the comments from the Angry Asian Buddhist post. (Another worthwhile article is Stories We Have Yet to Hear: The Path to Healing Racism in American Sanghas by Mushim Ikeda-Nash.) I still have a little bundled up stress from the last post, but reading this booklet was a real weight off my shoulders. You hear this all the time, but I have to say it again: It’s good knowing that I’m not alone.
My Angry Asian post was about how I felt a core demographic of the Buddhist community was being ignored. This core demographic is the next generation of Asian American Buddhists.
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Posted in Angry Asian Buddhist, Buddhist Youth, Identity, tagged American, Angry Asian Man, Asian American, basketball, BCA, Buddhist Youth, Buddhists, culture, Language, minority, temple on May 5, 2008|
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I don’t want to sound like the Angry Asian Man, but I’ve had a hard time finding articles about Asian American Buddhists.
This is one of the classic issues for Asian Americans. The underrepresented minority caught between two worlds. Asian Americans born and raised in North America must continually confront a mainstream perception that they aren’t American enough. At the same time, Asian Americans face pressures from both within and outside the Asian American community of not being Asian enough.
The real issue for young Buddhists in the Asian American community is that there are very few Buddhist communities that they can go to without having to suppress part of their identity. Culturally Asian temples emphasize language and culture, which can be really intimidating for Asian American youth who feel excessively high cultural expectations placed on them. There is probably no coincidence that the virtually all Asian American Buddhists who are active in their communities are also fluent in their parents’ native language and culture.
But on the other hand, culturally American Buddhist centers often feel impersonal when stripped of culturally Asian (but maybe spiritually-lite) practices. And it’s hard for these American centers to understand the perspective of young Asian Americans, who may be intimately familiar with Buddhist symbolism and ritual, but don’t know what it all stands for. An iconoclastic emphasis on philosophy often smacks of inauthenticity.
Then again, there are organizations like the BCA that have really, in my opinion, managed to forge a unique Asian American identity. But cultural divisions in the Asian American Buddhist community continue. BCA Youth are more likely to play basketball with Japanese Methodists than with GĐPT youth (who also have basketball teams).
So is there a place for Asian American Buddhists in today’s Buddhist community? Maybe this is why the Pew study said that 50% of Buddhists choose not to keep the faith…
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I was looking over Dharma Forest and on the top was a mention of the recent DRBY conference. Back when I was in college, we had always hoped to make a national Buddhist youth conference. I did attend one, in fact, for the Student Buddhist Network in Boston.
The SBN conference was a tradition that died before it took off. The conference was not really national (I was the only one not from the Northeast), not well planned (I remember spending the night in the Brandeis University library) and no one really stayed in touch afterwards (although I did get to meet Sumi Loundon). Anyway, running across this site made me begin to wonder about what’s going on with Buddhist student groups across the country. Are there conferences going on that I’m completely unaware of?
I couldn’t find many. I found a few conferences overseas, including Mitra (Australia), and ANZBYC (Australia & New Zealand). There was also ARBYC (Hong Kong), but that looks like it was really for kids. Too far for me.
In the US, I know of few such recurring conferences. One of the biggest conference organizers is the Buddhist Churches of America, the Shin Buddhist group. At least of a year ago, their Young Buddhist Association (YBA) was headed by Rev Fumiaki Usuki (or just Rev U). There is also the conference of Gia Định Phật Tử Việt Nam (Vietnamese Buddhist Family) held every year, but needless to say, it’s oriented towards Vietnamese. Aside from these two organizations, the only one I know of is DRBY.
It’s a bit sad to look at all these conferences, and then realize that I don’t really fit in. For one, these are all Mahayana Buddhist conferences. I doubt they’d ever reject me, but I really lean more towards the Theravada. Plus, I’m not really Japanese or Vietnamese either (maybe DRBY is the safe bet then).
If anything, I’m really looking for a conference that has a more general Buddhist theme to it: ‘What does it mean to be a Buddhist American?’ I guess I’m looking for something like an Asian American student conference, but for Buddhists. I’m still interested in the same questions as ever. Where do you go to temple? Where can I buy a cheap zafu? (Or show me how to make one!) Of course, I most want to know about other people’s questions and stories.
Guess this means I won’t be going to any conferences soon, but do write me a little note if you know of any that I didn’t mention here.
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